Walt Michaels, once the coach of the New York Jets, didn’t help his job security by using a most insensitive analogy about statistics. It certainly is neither worth repeating nor even googling, and he deserved the consequences of his poor judgment, but his basic premise, that numbers can be twisted, was accurate.
Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Stats can reveal vulnerabilities.
Consider some figures and what they might say about the young Kansas University basketball team as it prepares for an NCAA Tournament that for it begins Friday morning in Minneapolis.
• Statistic No. 1: Sherron Collins has made 42 percent of his three-point shots in victories, 26 percent in losses.
What it says: When Kansas falls behind, Collins tries to bring back the team by himself and teammates often appear too willing to let him.
• Statistic No. 2: When Cole Aldrich attempts at least 10 field goals, Kansas is 10-1.
What it says: Getting the ball to Aldrich in a position where he can score and/or draw a foul is KU’s best path to victory. Sometimes, the opposing defense dictates where the ball goes. Other times, the guards don’t show enough skill and/or patience to feed the post consistently.
A couple of days after the Baylor loss, freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor said: “We were watching film and coach showed us a stretch where (Aldrich) caught the ball at 19:48 and then he caught the ball again with like nine minutes left in the game. So he had only like two or three touches in the second half on the block. ... We have to get better at finding him.”
• Statistic No. 3: Despite going 25-7, Kansas has more turnovers (14.6 per game) than opponents (13.8).
What it says: The Jayhawks are not particularly skilled passers. It also highlights that Kansas does not have a single pure point guard on the roster.
• Statistic No. 4: Kansas went 18-0 in Allen Fieldhouse, 7-7 outside of Lawrence.
What it says: The younger the team, the more it tends to miss the comfortable home surroundings and extra energy a rabid crowd lends, especially in a building as intimate as Allen Fieldhouse.
• Statistic No. 5: Collins makes 46 percent of his field goal attempts in Allen Fieldhouse, 37 percent in other buildings.
What it says: As Collins goes, so go the Jayhawks is the obvious conclusion, but it might say even more. When the team plays in less-comfortable surroundings, Collins seems more protective of young players, more conscious of leading them out of the wilderness. When that happens, he tends to take on too much responsibility and shoot too often.
Statistics don’t reveal everything.
No pain meter tracks how much Aldrich’s stress-reaction injury in his left foot slows him. He and everyone else in the program downplays the impact of it, yet he hasn’t been running the floor the same. If a week of rest can restore Aldrich to normal and Collins can make good decisions and hit shots, Kansas can make a long run. If Aldrich’s mobility is restricted, the ball doesn’t come to him, and Collins isn’t hitting, it figures to be a quick tournament for the Jayhawks.